Top Tips for Effective Time Management
Time management is executing most efficient use of your time and working more smartly. Time management needs planning, and it needs you to stick to the plan. The most important aspect is that it needs discipline. As per the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule, 80% of the results are an outcome of 20% of effort. In other words, only 20% of all the things that you do are important and the remaining 80% do not contribute much.
This article offers a couple of tips for workaholics to manage their time effectively.
- Set Clear Goals
It is very important for you to know your short term as well as long-term goals. It enables you to distinguish between what is essential and what is not. If you are aware of where you wish to go and what you wish to achieve, you can figure out precisely what actions you need to take and in what order. When your goals are clear, it helps you to plan and prepare a series of action steps to accomplish them.
- Build a To-Do List
It is always advisable to create To-Do lists. In fact, a To-Do list is your best pal. When you have one at your disposal, it helps to increase your productivity by 20%, clears your mind, and also helps in saving your energy and decreasing your stress levels. You must begin your day by spending around 5-10 minutes to plan for your activities for the day. It is even better if you prepare your list of activities the day before. It is a good idea to jot down your tasks either on paper or on your computer or even as a note on your cell. Try to split complex or large tasks into smaller manageable chunks so that you do not feel overwhelmed and can focus on one task at a time. As you accomplish your tasks and tick them off your To-Do list, it gives an immense sense of satisfaction.
- Always Prioritize Your Tasks
It may not always be feasible to get everything done from your To-Do list; however ensure that you get at least the most important things on your list done. In order to do this, you need to prioritize the tasks on your list and figure out the important and most urgent tasks. You must number your tasks or you can assign them ABC status and list your most important task as ‘A’ and the next in priority order as ‘B’, ‘C’, and so on.
- Prepare a Schedule
Going by the priority list, you should prepare a schedule for the day as well as one for the week that includes your contingencies and break timings. Make your schedule as realistic as possible and have buffers for interruptions or unscheduled events. The amount of contingency time that you need to build in depends on the nature of your work. If you have a schedule at you end, you do not have to waste your time and energy thinking what needs to be done next.
- Avoid procrastination
Everyone feels guilty whenever they procrastinate; however, for some individuals it is a chronic issue and this is a major barrier towards achieving success. When you tend to procrastinate, you are aware that the task or assignment that you are evading isn’t going away anywhere and you will have to do it anyways. Hence, it is crucial to analyze the causes behind your procrastination. Figure out is it because you are waiting for the right kind of mood or timing, fearing failure, underestimating the required time or the difficulty level of the task, or just formed a bad habit of procrastination. The only way that you can break this habit is to stop putting things off and just doing it.
- Manage phone calls and emails
One of the biggest barriers to effective time management is responding reactively to phone calls and emails. Until and unless you need to be always available, try to avoid getting constant email notifications and set your phone calls to be re-directed to voicemails, as these things eat into your time and makes you constantly lose your focus.
In order to concentrate on your work, you need to give yourself ample time. Try to go through and respond to emails only a couple of times in a day, so that you are not constantly distracted. In order to implement this, you need to recondition the expectations of people so that they are mentally prepared not to expect an instant response to their emails but are assured at the same time that they will receive the response.
- Maintain a time log
Try to track your day to day activities and make a note of how much time each task takes. When you maintain a realistic log of your time, as well as note down the interruptions, you may be taken by surprise how much time is taken up by certain tasks and how much time is wasted and you do not even realize it.
It is also a good idea to note down your energy levels and focus at different times of the day. This allows you to figure out what kind of activities you need to take up at what time of the day. Accordingly you must schedule your most difficult tasks based on when your energy level is the highest. For instance, if you feel you are creative and focussed during the morning, then you should utilize that time for brainstorming and writing and not waste time by responding to emails or calls.
- Take Breaks
When you take breaks, it helps to keep your mind fresh and you are able to get back to work with renewed focus. On the other hand, if you work continuously without taking any breaks, you will certainly be putting in more hours but work in a less productive manner. Hence, you must stick to allotted time breaks. You can also try out the Pomodoro technique to see if it helps to increase your productivity. As per this time management technique, you need to work in 25 minute segments or Pomodoros by taking 5 minute breaks between each segment and a longer break after every four Pomodoros. Some people find it to be a very useful technique and it helps them to increase their level of focus and efficiency.
- Be Organised and Have Good Systems in Place
Try and be organized and have good systems in place for your computer documents, emails, papers etc. This will help you to save valuable hours in the long time. So, it is worthwhile to invest some time initially to set up your systems so that you do not have to worry about it.
- Always Delegate Your Work
You do not need to be a superhero and do everything all by yourself. If possible, you must delegate less important tasks which can be performed by someone else as well.
- Learn to Say No When Required
You cannot say ‘yes’ to everything and agree to every request since your time and resources are limited. You need to stick to what is important and know when to say ‘No’.
Now that you have the above tips at your disposal learn how to squeeze more into your day and make the most of the available time to strike a balance in your career/work and let productivity be at an all-time high.